World number two and defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer continued his quest for a historic 20th Grand Slam title in fine style, surviving an early scare to beat 19th seed Tomas Berdych in straight sets to reach the semifinals in Melbourne for a staggering 14th time in his career.
The Swiss got off to a slow start against the Czech, who has twice beaten Federer at Grand Slam tournaments, though rallied from 2-5 down in the opener to claim the opening set, and after that was in full control. The second seed was rarely troubled after that, winning 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 14 minutes to progress
Federer overcomes early scare to ease through
After two impressive performances against Juan Martin del Potro and Fabio Fognini, many expected Berdych to provide Federer with a real test, and that proved to be the case early on, though failing to take the first set eventually cost the Czech.
It was Berdych who got off to the far brighter start, easing to a seemingly decisive 5-2 lead in the opening set as he bullied Federer around court early on. However, Federer was able to work his way back in, saving a set point when the 19th seed was serving at 5-3 to break, and then saved another set point serving at 5-6 to secure a tiebreak. Despite being behind throughout the set, the Swiss took control from then, dominating the tiebreak to end Berdych’s early resistance
After a tricky start, Federer was now playing somewhere near his best, and that showed in the second set as he was rarely threatened on serve. Despite dropping that first set, Berdych too looked good on serve throughout the second set, though one poor service game cost him dearly; serving at 3-4, Berdych struggled under the pressure Federer placed on him and was broken despite having previously been so comfortable. The Swiss had no trouble in serving the set out, putting him in a decisive two sets to love lead.
With the match now completely in his favor, Federer pressed hard early on in the third set and broke for a 2-1 lead early on. For the first time since the opening set, the Czech applied some pressure and was able to immediately break back, though another sloppy service game cost as Federer broke again, and this time consolidated to go just two games from victory. Berdych was able to force the defending champion to serve it out, though he was unable to apply too much pressure as Federer safely reached the last four.
Though it was not his easiest match of the tournament, the five-time champion is still yet to drop a set in Melbourne and is now the huge favorite for a sixth title, which would put him alongside Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic in the record books. Unseeded Korean Hyeon Chung will be his last four opponent.